SNL’s second season along with some projects we’re working on for next Ramadan.
How did your journey start?
It all started when I was in kindergarten…no, I’m actually kidding! My field of study is not nearly related to what I do now; I studied business in the United States and had my second major in Political Science at the American University in Cairo. My journey in the media started when I first worked with Tarek Nour around fifteen years ago as an account handler. The first time I ever went to a set was for shooting ads for Vodafone and Sherif Arafa was the director; that’s when I fell in love with being on set in general. We then worked on TV programs for Hussein El Emam and came up with the ‘Madiha Hatem’ concept for which Badreya Tolba is now known. I became known in the advertising field and got an offer from Rotana, which I initially accepted, but in around ten months I decided I wanted to set up my own company. My real turning point was producing El Sha’a (The Apartment) hitting the highest distributed program in the Middle East! This huge success scared me a lot as I didn’t know how to maintain it. Luckily, I also came up with the idea of El Tagreba (The Experience). We worked very hard and we made celebrities try new and weird things; it was exceptional! We then decided to focus more on TV Comedy Dramas and the result was Ayza Atgawez ‘I Want to Get Married’. ‘Sharbat Loze’ (Almond Sharbat), Vertigo and of course‘Hekayat Banat’ (Girls’ Stories) all of which met overwhelming success. I really do love my job; one of my friends once told me you turned your hobby of watching TV into a career, and it is actually true.
When will Girls’ Stories II be aired? What changes will be made?
There will be a second and third part, but as a start Girls’ Stories II should be aired in September 2017. As for the changes, there’s an American proverb that goes “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” People loved it because it was fresh and natural so we will keep it this way. The only change will be in the cast, unfortunately, as one of the main actresses is pregnant.
Niran Sadeqa (Friendly Fire) was out of this world, it was the first of its kind in our drama series culture, tell us how it all happened.
The script of Friendly Fire was brought to us after the success of our projects. It was rejected from all producers and they told the writer that he will never find someone crazy enough to produce it! But I read the script and loved it was very different, weird and interesting, so we worked on it and again, it was yet another raging success.
With the Arabizing musical programs trend all over then Middle East, why Saturday Night Live in particular?
My story with SNL started when I was 15 years old and attending a military school in the United States. We had to be in bed at 10:00 PM every day when SNL aired at 11:30, so my friends and I used to sneak out when everyone was sleeping to watch SNL every Saturday. Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to be a part of it someday. Years later after I opened my company, I sent to the SNL team in the US proposing my interest in producing a franchise in Egypt, but unfortunately we weren’t lucky. A couple of years after, OSN came to us and asked us to produce SNL. We started working on it for year and a half before it was aired. It was by far the most difficult and complicated project we’ve ever done; it’s like producing a movie every week, we produce 75 minutes of different content on a weekly basis with different decoration and costumes, dealing with different celebrities. It’s like mission impossible! It wouldn’t have been executed this professionally without my team, I have the best team ever and they never even complain. They are my blessing.
What does a producer do?
There’s this perception we had from old movies that the producer is always that fat guy who sits crossed legged surrounded by hilarious amounts of money. Our work starts with the decision of what we want to do, bringing the team together. The producer doesn’t write but he should know how to read, and he doesn’t direct but should know how to view. It’s more of a managerial work of the team. Most importantly, he should know the right timing to air as well as how to finance the project.
What do you mostly look forward to?
Finding new challenges. When you do something and spend so much time doing it, you get bored. There was an American producer who once told me “you can spend your life producing 40 shows or you can spend your life producing one show”. Today we’ve successfully produced about 13 TV series, 20 programs, and 8 movies with Mohamed Hefzy. We always try to find something to keep the job exciting because
if it’s not, it could easily become a routine. Find your passion and work upon it. The market is also rapidly changing so you need to consistently adapt to it.
You studied in the United States for a while, what made you come back?
I came back because we’re capable of doing wonders! We always succeed and become the best at what we do abroad, so I decided to come back and achieve such success here and then take it there, not the other way around. I know I’ll produce something one day in Hollywood. I still have no idea whether I will produce an Egyptian project there or an American one. Yet, I am sure it will happened eventually.
What makes you different?
I don’t like to do the things I know someone else can! I prefer to work on eccentric concepts.
What about the Oscars?
[Laughs] Yes, the Oscars! I was invited to the Oscars and I wasn’t actually sure whether to go or not as I had a lot of work here, until two days before the Oscars when I decided I did not want to miss the chance. I booked a ticket, called one of my friends to borrow his tuxedo as I didn’t have time to fetch my own, and I made it!
Who is your favourite producer?
Lorne Michaels, the producer of SNL, he has been working on it for 40 years now! Another one is; Shonda Rhimes the producer of Grey’s Anatomy, How to get away with murder and Scandal. Mak Burnett the producer of Survivor, Apprentice and The Voice is also one of my favourites. Beside being great producers, the inspiring stories of how they reached that huge success is such a motivation for me.
What experience has changed your life?
Living abroad alone and being independent. I worked in every field: Pizza delivery, dish washing and I even worked in a restaurant where I cleaned shrimps! When I got older, I started selling used cars. I gained I lot of experience when I was young so by the time I had finished my studies, I had gained all the experience I needed.
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